Deciding where to travel can feel like an overwhelming task. There are so many possibilities and narrowing down THE ENTIRE WORLD into something manageable is seems like a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you plan a world trip based on our experience so far.
First we created a list of countries we were interested in and grouped them by region. If there was a key reason for going, we noted that as a key reason for traveling to that country. Our travel style is more geared towards adventure and immersion in the culture, so we want to spend more time in fewer places with possible side trips to neighboring countries. This means that even though we have an expansive list of 34 countries, we needed to narrow it down to 8-12 countries to get the experience we want.
Our Must-Go Countries
- New Zealand – Epic landscapes
- Australia – Great Barrier Reef, Sydney
- Japan – Onsen, Sushi, Fuji, Sapporo, Culture
- Thailand – Thai food, Culture, Bangkok, Chiang Mai
- Optional side trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia
- China – Great Wall
- Spain – Camino de Santiago
- Optional side trip to Portugal
- U.K. – Castles, London, History
- Germany – Devils Bridge, History, Culture
- Optional side trip to Italy
- France – Paris
- Optional side trips to Belgium, Sweden
- Peru – Machu Picchu
- Argentina – Iguazu Falls
This list will be different for everyone based on your travel style and what you really want out of the experience. Narrowing it down to this, took some effort, but in about 10 minutes of just looking at the list, we had something to work with and explore further.
The next part was setting a budget for the whole trip. We are currently saving up about $50,000 for two people. We will try our best to not have to spend all of this, and here are some tips on how. Knowing the largest cost will be airfare, getting the most bang for the buck on each flight was important to us while planning. Our thought is to fly to a region, and then take buses and trains to neighboring countries to save in cost. That will minimize the expensive flights and allow us to see more of the countryside in these places.
If you are flexible with your dates, are willing to take multiple flights and fly when no one else is flying (holidays, special events, late nights, etc.), you can usually find deals. Using budget airlines is also helpful and here is a list of some common ones (Ryanair, Spirit, Norwegian, Tiger Airways, WOW, flyDubai, and Southwest.
Fun tip on flights to Japan: When going to Japan from the U.S., fly to China first using their airlines and then to Japan on a second flight. This may cut your ticket price in half and will be worth the 36 hour trip. There are many of these deals if you look hard enough. One of my favorite sites are Kayak.com, but even google can help you find flights fairly well.
The next largest cost after airfare is lodging. This varies greatly by region and country, so spending more time in the cheaper places will allow you to travel longer. We don’t expect to spend a long time in Europe as it is pricier, but we will spend more time in less developed countries in Asia to save costs. The type of lodging also can help. Hotels are usually the most expensive lodging that will be reserved for special occasions.
We will look for opportunities for work-stay programs, hostels, airbnb and even couchsurfing. Some popular work-stay programs are workaway.info, wwoof.net and helpstay.com. Worldpackers.com has a lot of opportunities from individuals or groups that exchange living accommodations for various types of work from photography to language teaching or even tour guide operators. Research opportunities from any of these to make sure it is the right fit for you.
You will generally work several hours and then get the rest of the day to go see and do what you would like. Some may charge a food fee but your lodging will be covered. Poke around on the internet and find reputable options that may cover most or all of your lodging expenses in exchange for volunteer work. This is your chance to be frugal and stretch your dollars for the fun stuff.
The last thing to consider when choosing your destinations is the seasonality of each place. Especially in places geared more towards tourism, the prices go up and down based on demand. For that reason, we like to hit places near the borders of the off-season. We did this on our trip to Costa Rica, and saved quite a bit on our activities and lodging. The weather turned out to be okay too.
Based on seasonality, we will also plan our destinations in a logical progression through more pleasant times of year. Typhoon season in the Southeast Asia would not be a pleasant experience. Weather and peak tourism should both be considered for your overall trip planning and country selection.
If you have any tips on traveling the world, we would love to hear from you in the comments section. Cheers!